Rox Prospect Primer: Gray brings bigs closer

The ace, McMahon show no signs of a sophomore slump for Colorado

Across two leagues, Jon Gray went 4-0 in nine starts with 51 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.93. (Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

By Kelsie Heneghan / | March 26, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2014 season approaching, takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Shining Star: Jon Gray, RHP

The past year of Jon Gray's baseball career has been extremely quick and very impressive -- much like his fastball, which has clocked in at 100 mph.

The 22-year-old was selected third overall in the 2013 Draft by the Rockies. Then the following day, he threw a quality start for Oklahoma against a highly touted LSU squad in the NCAA Super Regionals. A few months later, Gray was in a Minor League uniform, electrifying fans across the Pioneer and California Leagues.

"He's a big part of our future. He's had a lot of success -- we've taken our time with him for a lot of different reasons," Rockies assistant director of player development Zach Wilson said. "He certainly has the potential and ability to be a really good Major League pitcher."

In five starts for Class A Advanced Modesto, the 6-foot-4 right-hander fanned 36 batters with a cool 0.75 ERA. Gray earned an invite to big league camp this spring, making three appearances before being reassigned to build back up his speed and work on his changeup. With his strong fastball as well as a devastating slider in his arsenal, many scouts believe Gray could see Major League action as soon as this September.

At the Crossroads: Jefri Hernandez, RHP

After spending three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Jefri Hernandez has worked his way up Colorado's ladder. Transitioning multiple times between the bullpen and starting rotation during his six seasons in the Minors, Hernandez continued to subtly improve, with command being a key factor to his success. The 6-foot-1 hurler has begun to walk fewer batters but throw more wild pitches.

"Jefri Hernandez has a power arm with a fastball that runs up to 95 and consistently hits 93-94 with a slider that has good bite and depth," Wilson said. "He competed well as a young 20-year-old pitcher in his first full season in 2012 in Low-A Asheville."

While his full season debut saw his worst career ERA (4.42), the right-hander also led the South Atlantic League with 21 saves as a member of the Tourists. Hernandez began the 2013 season with Class A Advanced Modesto but had to have season-ending elbow surgery after just three appearances.

"He is currently getting healthy and back on track," Wilson said. "Still young at 22, he continues to have some future projection with his overall stuff."

Full-season Debutant: Ryan McMahon, 3B

Colorado's second-round pick Ryan McMahon quickly impressed scouts after being drafted last June. The 19-year-old third baseman led his Rookie-level Grand Junction teammates in homers (11), RBIs (52), walks (28), OBP (.402) and OPS (.984) over the course of 59 games.

"He has the tools to be an impactful, sustainable Major League player. We'll just have to help him develop in other ways," Wilson said. "A lot will be mental preparation and the other challenges that come with the higher levels -- strike zones get smaller, breaking balls get tighter, things of that nature."

Prospect Primer

The California native faltered defensively, making 12 errors, but his potential at the hot corner is high. McMahon's time as a standout quarterback at Mater Dei High School -- a school known for producing signal callers such as Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley -- is evident in his glove work and leadership. The left-handed hitter is likely to make his full-season debut in 2014.

More to keep an eye on: Right-hander Eddie Butler has advanced through the Rockies' farm system swiftly, reaching four levels in two seasons, and is on track to see big league action later this year. Power hitter Kyle Parker spent time at first base in Arizona Fall League action and will try prove that his glove is viable enough to be a backup option behind the newly acquired and injury-prone Justin Morneau. Leading in the offensive categories that McMahon did not for Grand Junction last summer was Raimel Tapia, whom Wilson says has a sixth tool -- passion -- that will propel the outfielder to a big season. Dominican Summer League pitcher Raul Hernandez could break out with back-of-the-bullpen potential down the line for the Rockies.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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